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North Korea, Intelligence and Security

North Korea, Intelligence and Security

The nation of North Korea was established on September 9, 1948, during the grab for satellite nations at the beginning of the Cold War. Supported by the Soviet Union, North Korea established a communist regime under dictator Kim Il-sung. The new government gained popularity by nationalizing former Japanese-owned and remnant European colonial industries and economic interests. Cold War politics plunged the region into war between 1950 and 1953. After the Korean War, North Korea distanced itself from the Soviet Union and became more reactionary and isolationist.

North Korea continues to resist reforms, and relies on the cult of personality of its leaders, and an oppressive political espionage and censorship system, to preserve the nation's communist regime. The North Korean intelligence committee is largely a political mechanism, conducting domestic and foreign political espionage. In recent years, North Korea has taken increasing interest in gathering foreign intelligence on weapons and nuclear systems.

The Cabinet General Intelligence Bureau is North Korea's main intelligence and security agency. Concentrating on foreign intelligence, the agency's Liaison Department actively seeks to subvert the governments of Japan and South Korea, and conducts espionage on United States interests in those nations. The Research Department for External Intelligence (RDEI) collects and analyzes all foreign intelligence gathered by North Korean agents and remote listening equipment. The agency shares information with the communist Central Committee and North Korean leaders.

Preservation of internal security is the main mission of the Ministry of Public Security and the State Security Department. However, in North Korea, internal security is defined in wholly political terms. The ruling political party, the Korean Worker's Party, controls the agencies' network of informants and most resources of the intelligence community. The director of the State Security Department was ousted in 1987, and the directorship was likely assumed by North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il. The State Security Department regularly engages in political espionage, surveillance of citizens and government officials, and monitoring of communication systems. The agency also contributes to the pervasive censorship of all means of expression, such as media and personal speech.

In 2003, North Korea reactivated a nuclear reactor earlier ordered closed under international nuclear nonproliferation agreements. North Korea also announced plans to construct a complex for processing nuclear materials. The international community suspects North Korea of possessing weapons of mass destruction, including intercontinental ballistic missile capability. The region remains a geo-political hot spot, despite efforts of the international diplomatic community to disarm North Korea.

FURTHER READING:

ELECTRONIC:

Global Security.org. North Korean Intelligence Agencies. <http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/dprk/> (March 26, 2003).

SEE ALSO

Korean War
Non-Proliferation and National Security, United States
North Korean Nuclear Weapons Programs

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